TORONTO (JTA) — Canada’s Liberal government has reinstated funding to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees, or UNRWA.
Ottawa announced Wednesday that it was providing $20 million to UNRWA to support education, health and social services “for millions of vulnerable Palestinian refugees.” Also, it committed $5 million to the agency’s emergency appeal for Palestinian refugees affected by the crisis in Syria and surrounding areas, according to a statement from the office of Marie-Claude Bibeau, minister of international development.
Canada’s previous Conservative government cut funding to UNRWA gradually. By 2013 and 2014, Ottawa’s allocation was zero. Canada became the only donor nation ever to withdraw funding completely.
Leading Jewish organizations applauded the cuts at the time.
The reinstated funding “will help approximately 5.5 million Palestinian refugees — particularly women and children — receive the assistance they need, including access to health care and the opportunity to go to school,” according to Ottawa’s statement.
“We want to see Palestinian refugee children in classrooms where they can learn universal values of tolerance and respect,” Bibeau said. “Vulnerable Palestinians deserve all the opportunities they can to contribute positively to their communities, and Canada’s funding will help to better the lives of millions of refugees.”
The Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs said it continues to have “serious reservations about UNRWA, an organization that is implicated with assisting terrorist groups such as Hamas,” which is “notorious for diverting funds and materials provided by the international community intended for humanitarian aid to terrorist purposes.”
Donors “have a responsibility to ensure that aid is used for the purpose for which it is given, and we are pleased Canada has taken the lead in establishing a robust accountability protocol,” CIJA said.